The Ministry liaises constantly with the Italian Permanent Representation to UNESCO, the Italian National Commission for UNESCO, Italian and foreign diplomatic missions and the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and for Tourism, coordinating Italy’s participation in UNESCO’s bodies and programmes, supporting the submission of Italian applications to the lists for the protection of cultural, intangible and environmental heritage and promoting multilateral cultural cooperation.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) was established by the London Convention, which was signed on 16 November 1945 and entered into force on 4 November 1946; UNESCO was therefore created in the aftermath of the Second World War, based on the general awareness that political and economic agreements would not be enough to guarantee lasting peace, but rather that education, science, culture and cooperation among nations must also be promoted globally. In fact, spreading these values plays a key role in ensuring universal respect for justice, human rights and the fundamental freedoms of all peoples. More than seventy years after it was first established, UNESCO’s mandate is confirmed as being as relevant as ever, to counter new forms of violence and intolerance, serious inequalities between countries around the world and threats to human rights and peace, as well as to address the challenges posed by the need for sustainable development on a global scale.
The organisation currently has 193 Member States and 11 Associated States and operates through three bodies: the General Conference, the Executive Board and the Secretariat.
UNESCO’s work focuses on the following sectors:
- Education: since it was first founded, the Organisation has dedicated most of its ordinary budget to this sector. UNESCO has always worked, and continues to work, towards wider access to education in all countries of the world, starting from basic education, in the belief that this is a fundamental element for individuals and societies to develop in a healthy and balanced way.
- Culture: traditionally, this is the sector with the greatest visibility and with which the Organisation is most associated. Through a number of international conventions, UNESCO promotes the protection of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, the safeguarding of cultural heritage in crisis areas, the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural heritage and the protection of different cultural expressions and identities (Italy and UNESCO).
- Natural Sciences: Through a number of international scientific programmes, UNESCO supports environmental protection, research and scientific cooperation in the interests of people’s safety and sustainable development. In particular, the Organisation works: to develop policies and strategies for the reform of scientific and technological systems; to protect biosphere resources, to ensure a balanced use of water resources and to raise awareness among individuals and communities regarding a more respectful relationship with nature; to carry out marine research and properly manage the resources of the sea and coastal regions (Italy and UNESCO).
- Social sciences and the humanities: UNESCO helps Member States to develop mutual understanding and cooperation in order to build lasting peace. Through a number of intergovernmental programmes, it provides tools to address global threats, such as inequality, exclusion, violence and sectarianism; it promotes intercultural dialogue and education about peace, human rights, democracy and global citizenship. In addition, UNESCO supports sport as a tool to foster integration between political and cultural contexts that are otherwise very distant from each other.
- Communication and Information: this is the organisation’s most recent sector and aims to protect and promote freedom of expression, access to information, independence and pluralism for means of communication and information, and the safety of journalists.
Headquarters: Place de Fontenoy 7, 75007 Paris
Italy in UNESCO
Universally recognised as being a ‘superpower of beauty and culture’, Italy unquestionably plays a prestigious and leading role in UNESCO, providing a valuable contribution in terms of financial support, active participation, visibility and planning. Italy’s financial commitment to the Organisation is of crucial importance: Italy is one of UNESCO’s main contributors, supporting its activities through both compulsory and voluntary contributions.
From an institutional point of view, Italy is also a very active member of the Organisation: in 2019, Italy was re-elected to the Executive Board for the sixth consecutive four-year term and is currently part of various committees and commissions. In November 2021, Italy was elected as a new member of the World Heritage Committee, after twenty years of absence from this body.
Italy’s leading role does not only derive from its important artistic, cultural and natural heritage (Italy and UNESCO), but also from its incredibly high quality “human capital”. Around 70 Italian officials work within UNESCO, whose quality and dedication are recognised by all. These internal members of staff are joined by a vast network of experts – technicians, craftsmen, engineers, scholars, scientists, archaeologists, restorers – who offer their expertise for field interventions, to prepare technical dossiers and to train experts in other countries. In the sector of restoration, for example, in which Italy boasts an excellent reputation on a global scale, through UNESCO, the Bel Paese has carried out numerous projects to recover and restore decaying archaeological and historical-artistic sites in the Mediterranean basin, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and South East Asia.
Italy also actively contributes to recovering stolen cultural heritage and has created the Unite4Heritage Task Force, for the safeguarding of cultural heritage in the event of a crisis or armed conflict. This Task Force, also known as the ‘Blue Helmets of culture’, will be made available to UNESCO and the international community, in accordance with procedures that are in the process of being defined.
The Italian National Commission for UNESCO
Art. VII of the London Convention of 16 November 1945, which first established UNESCO, provides for the establishment of National Commissions or National Cooperation Bodies in the Organisation’s member states. The Italian National Commission for UNESCO (CNIU) was established in 1950.
This Commission works through the following bodies:
- the Assembly, which defines the Commission’s general strategies in relation to UNESCO’s programmes and purposes and regarding the general interests of national policy in the fields of education, science, culture and communication;
- the Executive Board, which is the governing body of the Commission and implements the strategic guidelines defined by the Assembly.
In carrying out its mandate, the Commission:
- promotes the implementation of UNESCO programmes and activities in Italy;
- endeavours to associate people and organisations in the cultural, scientific and educational fields with the work of UNESCO;
- promotes UNESCO’s principles by organising conferences and training courses and by sponsoring initiatives that are in line with the organisation’s programmes;
- provides the government and public administrations with opinions and recommendations;
- draws up proposals on the choice of members for the Italian delegations to the UNESCO General Conference and other meetings or events promoted by UNESCO;
- protects the name, acronym, emblem and internet domain names of UNESCO and its specific programmes and monitors their use;
- provides opinions to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the educational, scientific and cultural aspects of the projects to be implemented in the context of development cooperation.
The composition, duties and operations of the CNIU have most recently been governed by Italian Ministerial Decree no. 4195 of 24 May 2007.
Headquarters: Palazzo Altemps, Via di Sant’Apollinare 8, 00186 Rome
UNESCO centres in Italy
BRESCE – Venice
The UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe (BRESCE) is based in Venice, in the city’s historical Palazzo Zorzi, and is UNESCO’s only field office with the specific mandate to promote scientific and cultural cooperation, research and training in Europe, particularly in the south-eastern region.
This Office is mainly active in the following fields: technical assistance for the integrated management of cultural and natural resources, with a particular focus on UNESCO designated areas (World Heritage Sites, Biosphere Reserves, Geoparks); protection of tangible and intangible cultural heritage; the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural heritage; the integration of culture into sustainable development plans; promotion of diverse cultural expressions, management of water resources; reduction of environmental and anthropic risks; science diplomacy. BRESCE’s activities are also geared towards achieving the goals set by the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Office is supported by a unit in Sarajevo (Antenna) and hosts a member of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, engaged in the international “Ocean Literacy for all” initiative, which brings together associations of educators and researchers in order to provide education and raise awareness about sea protection issues.
Headquarters: Palazzo Zorzi, Salizada Zorzi, 4930, 30122 Venice
The Trieste Pole (ICTP and TWAS)
The Trieste Pole includes the International Centre for Theoretical Physics and the World Academy of Sciences, both founded by the Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam, in 1964 and 1983 respectively.
The International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) is committed to promoting scientific research and capacity-building in developing countries; it supports the role of women in science and the careers of scientists from low-income countries.
Headquarters: Strada Costiera 11, I-34151 Trieste
The World Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) supports the scientific advancement of developing countries, in particular endeavouring to promote the development and implementation of strategies able to address the emergencies of hunger, disease and poverty, through sustainable development plans and structures.
Headquarters: Strada Costiera 11, I-34151 Trieste
WWAP – Perugia
The Secretariat of the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), founded in 2000 in Perugia, is a UNESCO International Centre of Excellence, in charge of assessing the state and management of freshwater resources all over the world. It coordinates numerous agencies and partners of the United Nations to produce the annual World Water Development Report (WWDR). Thanks to this assessment work, WWAP provides water managers and policy makers with useful information for the development of sustainable water policies and spreads knowledge on emerging challenges.
Headquarters: Villa Colombella, Via dei Ceraioli 45, Colombella Alta, 06134 Perugia